US President Barack Obama. Picture: REUTERS
US President Barack Obama. Picture: REUTERS

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama’s popularity rating showed an improvement over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in three crucial swing states, a new survey showed yesterday, amid a political row caused by Mr Romney’s controversial remarks that 47% of Americans considered themselves as victims.

Mr Obama is favoured by at least 50% of likely voters in both Virginia and Wisconsin, and leads by one point over Mr Romney in Colorado, according to the CBS News-New York Times-Quinnipiac University poll. The improvement was over similar polls taken last month before the national party conventions.

The poll gave Mr Obama a 50% to 46% lead in Virginia and a 51% to 45% edge in Wisconsin, home state of the Republican vice-presidential nominee, Paul Ryan.

Mr Obama led Mr Romney in Virginia, 49% to 45%, and in Wisconsin, 49% to 47%, in the surveys released last month. In Colorado, Mr Obama led Mr Romney, 48% to 47%, within the margin of error, after trailing 50% to 45%, last month.

"All the bounces seem to be over as the candidates buckle down for a seven-week down-to-the-wire race to the finish," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac polling institute in Connecticut. While Mr Romney has lost ground, "the races are close", he said.

Several polls have shown Mr Obama with a lead over Mr Romney since the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida, last month, and the Democratic gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina, earlier this month.

An NBC News-Wall Street Journal survey released on Tuesday showed Mr Obama leading Mr Romney among likely voters, 50% to 45%, and a Washington Post poll gave Mr Obama an 8-percentage-point lead in Virginia, 52% to 44%, among likely voters.

"It’s clear to me that Barack Obama has moved a step ahead," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll with Bill McInturff, the Republican pollster.

Mr McInturff said that the presidential race may very well have seen an inflection point.

But noting similarities between the numbers and those from the 2004 George Bush vs John Kerry race, he suggested that this contest could be just as competitive.

"If you look at ’04 as a model, ’04 was really close. And that’s how we should continue to think about the campaign," Mr McInturff said.

Even before videotaped comments to donors were released showing Mr Romney appearing to dismiss 47% of Americans as government-dependent "victims", the CBS-Times survey showed Mr Obama with wide leads among voters on the question of which candidate cared about their needs and problems.